Back in January we had a preaching series called Sent into the world. That series opened the semester and introduced the overarching theme for the following months. We talked about what it means to not belong to the world yet still be in it and called to love it, about christian faith in relation to other religions and faiths, about the reality of suffering, about obedience and about what it means to be a christian in a culture that has pleasure and well being as a core value. At the same time we went through the book of Romans and got to know our Bibles a little bit more.
Then came the summer holidays, when we took time to listen to some of the parables Jesus told and learn about the teachings they convey. But now the summer holidays are coming to an end, people are starting to arrive in town, back from their holidays or brand new to the city, and we in OiC want to start looking into our focus for this semester.
Being sent into the world is a fundamental aspect of christian life. But there is a risk when we listen to this challenge, which is particularly strong in the culture and context we are set in right now. The risk is that we will take the challenge to our hearts as individuals, but not to our heart as a community, as a congregation. It is very hard for us to do otherwise. Most of us were bred with a strong notion of the value of the individual burned deep into the core of our cultural upbringing. In the end of the day the vast majority of our decisions and choices have to do with what I believe is best for me. It can sound even wrong, morally unacceptable, to expect someone to sacrifice something of their individuality. I am not, of course, speaking of explicitly wrong and bad things. Very few people would defend a notion of individuality where it’s ok for someone to kill, steal or harm others just because they would like to. But to deny yourself something that is not understood as inherently bad, and which is not generally seen as harmful? And to do that because of something beyond oneself, or even worse because some faith community asks it? To many that would be plainly absurd!
Yet the Christian faith seems to do precisely that. To ask those who belong to the christian community to deny themselves. It asks us to love our enemies, forgive those who hurt and even persecute us, share the wealth we rightfully earned with others and to not expect anything in return. It asks us to be hospitable even when it’s not convenient, to consider the impact of my personal decisions in the life of the community, to abstain from excess of alcohol and from any sort of addiction, to abstain from sex outside marriage, and so on. It is rather shocking really! And still the christian faith insists that this process does not destroy or diminish the worth of the individual, but rather sets it in the course of true joy.
All of this is connected to who God is, and who He wants to form us, as His children, into being. But it is also connected to what the fellowship we are grafted into looks and is called to look like. Our christian identity is deeply and irrevocably connected to what Luke, in Acts of the Apostles, called the fellowship of the believers. And it is very much in the setting of this fellowship that God works in our lives, and it is in this setting that we are sent into the world.
So this semester we want to look more into what it means to be a part of this fellowship of the believers. We want to look into what it means to be a church, how being a church is a powerful witness to the world, about why the Bible talks about us as being brothers and sisters and what that means for us. And of course we want and need to do this on a solid biblical foundation. So bring your Bibles along as we look into different parts of it; and especially as we take time get to know the books of 1 John and Ruth better.
May God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit guide us through figuring out how to be His People today!